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Parks and rec commission to oversee competition for excess lodging tax revenue

When the city asked residents in 2013 how it should spend the 1 percent lodging tax charged to tourists on their nightly rentals, City Hall was flooded with ideas.
Courtesy Photo

— The Steamboat Springs City Council has tapped its Parks and Recreation Commission to help the city decide how to spend hundreds of thousands of lodging tax dollars that have not been allocated.

And if community interest in unspent lodging tax revenue is as strong as it was three years ago, the commission will oversee quite the competition.

Some council members appeared ready in the spring to dedicate the excess funds to an expansion of the Howelsen Ice Arena.



But the city’s elected officials decided it would be best to kick off a public process and let the Parks and Recreation Commission come up with a recommendation.

“I’m keeping an open mind, and I’m open to any and all proposals,” Council President Pro-Tem Jason Lacy said Tuesday.



City officials told the commission in the spring that the city expects it will have more than $750,000 in excess lodging tax revenue available to spend by the end of the year. If lodging tax revenue continues to rise, the fund could hold more than $1 million in the near future.

The money must be spent on an amenity aimed at drawing more visitors to the city.

Under the public process that will soon be launched by the commission, residents will likely be able to submit proposals for how to spend the tax money.

City staff is recommending the commission form a subcommittee to help steer the process.

City voters in 2013 overwhelmingly approved a plan to dedicate most of the lodging tax revenue collected in the city to area trail projects and the creation of the new Workman Park on Yampa Street for the next decade.

Some money also went toward marketing of the new trails and a capital improvement fund at Haymaker Golf Course.

Under the ballot language, any lodging tax revenue above $660,000 collected each year goes into a reserve fund that the council has the discretion to spend, as long as it meets the original ballot language that created the 1 percent tax on overnight stays in the city.

It is this pot of excess money that the Parks and Recreation Commission will be discussing at upcoming meetings.

Parks and Community Services Director John Overstreet will ask the commission on Wednesday how it wants to proceed.

“We would just like for the commission to appoint a subcommittee with some commission members and other members of the public to help steer this process,” Overstreet said. “We’d also like to set up a timeline.”

City Council President Walter Magill said Tuesday he’s hoping for a recommendation from the commission in November.

The last time lodging tax dollars were up for grabs in the city, nearly 40 suitors emerged and pitched ideas ranging from expanding the Yampa River Core Trail to adding more public restrooms at city parks.

The public process to pick proposals lasted more than a year.

Lacy said he expects some of the same proposals will resurface during the vetting process for the excess revenue.

Magill said Tuesday it is hoped the commission will entertain all types of proposals for the lodging tax dollars, including ones that would not be considered parks and recreation related.

The council could also delay spending the tax dollars right now and let them build up for a bigger project.

What do you think the council should do with excess lodging tax dollars?

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10


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